Author Topic: Bike Commuting 101  (Read 6751 times)

Kiwi Mustache

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Bike Commuting 101
« on: March 02, 2015, 11:32:12 PM »
I've managed to get a new job which is only 3km one way from our house (as opposed to the 37km one way commute I am currently doing by car).

I have no idea where to start but I'm looking at commuting by bike. It is a bit too far for me to walk with the time it would take but I'm very interested in bike commuting weather permitting.

I'm thinking I'm going to get a mountain bike and use that.

Any regular commuters that can point me in the right direction.

johnny847

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2015, 12:05:41 AM »
Honestly, I'd just walk it. I can usually walk 4 mph, so that's 28 minutes.

If you insist on biking, just get the cheapest bike you can find on Craigslist that's in working condition. There's no point in getting a nice bike if you're just going to use it for commuting.

However, at the same time, if you end up using your bike for other purposes, such as grocery shopping, running other errands, recreation, etc. then you may want to get a good bike.

gooki

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2015, 12:40:13 AM »
What city are you in? Flat or hilly?

Realistically any bike that fits you well will do the job. As someone who bikes everyday, I'd choose to walk the 3km.

DagobertDuck

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2015, 03:20:41 AM »
If you don't have serious hills on your way to work, I wouldn't bother getting a mountain bike with 21 or more gears, suspension fork etc (maintenance!!), but rather a simple low-maintenance bike with only one gear and fenders so you can use it on wet streets without getting wet and dirty.
As said, for only 3 km, any bike will do.

My commute is 4km one way, and though I do walk occasionally, I really like the speed of a bicycle.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2015, 03:29:48 AM by DagobertDuck »

nereo

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2015, 06:44:07 AM »
at a previous job we had two campuses that were just over 2km apart.  We kept a collection of very used bikes bought at yard sales and at the dump for people to use when they needed to go from one campus to another.  It eliminated the need for cars and changed is from a ~20-25min walk to a 3-5 minute ride.

Literally any bike will do as long as it fits.  But if you have a choice...
 A bike with wider tires will be more comfortable than one with skinny road racing tires.  A smoother tire is more efficient than the knobby mountain-bike tires. 
Go with a bike that gives you a more upright posture (vs ones that have you leaning over hte handlebars).  you'll be more comfortable and have a better view of the road.
You don't need any suspension for riding on paved roads.  It just adds expense and complexity
Gears  - I like 'em but there's no need for them for a commuter bike unless you have very hilly terrain. 
Theft - scuffed up, well used bikes are less likely to be stolen than a $1,000 brand new model.  A lock is always a good idea if it can't be stored inside your office.  In some places thieves will even steal the seatpost (not easy to lock up) so ask around whether that's something you need to remove and carry inside every time.

Other advice
Get lights (headlight and tail LED) and use them if there's any chance you'll be biking close to dawn or dusk.
wear a helmet. 
accept that it may take 1-2 weeks for you to feel comfortable riding every day.  In two weeks it will seem as simple as walking.  Give yourself extra time that first 2 weeks.
respect the rules of the road.

hope that helps!

GuitarStv

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2015, 06:51:55 AM »
That's a very short bike commute.  At 3 kilometers it doesn't really matter what bike you use, and you don't really need to carry repair stuff since you can easily walk the distance if something were to go wrong.

Be safe, bright reflective clothing, lots of bright lights, wear a helmet, and bike on the road not the sidewalk!

vhalros

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2015, 10:29:08 AM »
I'm not sure if you are asking for information about how to cycle on roads or not, but if you are here is a pretty good guide: http://cyclingsavvy.org/hows-my-driving/

QuirkyNurse

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2015, 11:16:16 AM »
I've done a ten mile commute on a mountain bike, a hybrid, and a road bike, and they all have their advantages.

Mountain Bike
      My mountain bike was rugged enough for dirt paths, but it was heavy and not very fast. That's not as important with a shorter commute like yours, but mine is ten miles, so that gets old. They are handy if you plan on cycling when there is snow.

Hybrid
      My hybrid had bigger tires, room for fenders and a rack, plenty of places to clip lights, and was made out of aluminum, so it was light. It was a really happy medium, and totally my favorite (it was stolen). If you plan on cycling in bad weather, or snow, or have to carry things, a bike that can accommodate fenders and a rack on the back will be a huge benefit to you! I work 12 hours and carry a big lunch with me, and it's nice to not have it bumping on my back the whole way in to work.

Road Bike
     This is what I use now, since it's the only one I own, and I love it. Road bikes are FAST, and even steel frame ones are pretty lightweight. I picked mine out of the trash and fixed it up (It's from the 70s), and it still runs great. My only complaint is that it's difficult to carry anything because of the lack of a rack and the bent over angle. OH, and they're pretty terrible in snow and wet conditions because of the lack of grip from the thin tires.

Blackadder

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2015, 11:39:51 AM »
For a "serious" introduction to traffic biking, I suggest John Forrester's book Effective Cycling. He covers almost everything, from choosing a bike, through maintenance, how to behave in traffic, clothing, etc.

Faraday

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2015, 11:45:46 AM »
It's an easy walk, but if you have a bike, you can easily go home for lunch (if your job lets you go offsite for lunch). Not to mention, you can run errands before-and-after work, things like groceries, if you get panniers or a basket.

Do a hybrid, they've come a long way with those bikes. I'm thinking something along the lines of a Trek Pure or a Specialized Expedition Sport (that's what I use). I ride mine 32 miles each way and it's pretty comfortable.

+1 to the comments about getting lights and dressing brightly. I have a blaze yellow bomber jacket I got at Northern Tool. Everyone who sees me in it thinks I work for DMV. Got me good treatment last time I had to go to the DMV office!!!

Travis

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2015, 11:57:00 AM »
For that short of a commute keep it simple (unless you're going up a big hill for most of that journey).  I ride 10km one way on a 24 speed trail bike and it feels inefficient, like I'm putting too much energy into the bike for how fast I'm going.  For lights, get LEDs.  They're brighter and are better on batteries than normal lights.  Get a yellow or orange vest to wear over your clothes.  I look like a construction worker, but nobody can say they didn't see me.

DagobertDuck

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2015, 12:13:23 PM »
I ride 10km one way on a 24 speed trail bike and it feels inefficient, like I'm putting too much energy into the bike for how fast I'm going.

Slick tires at the right tire pressure reduce rolling resistance a lot.
Schwalbe Big Apple etc.

mamagoose

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2015, 12:18:28 PM »
I would walk and use the time to catch up on phone calls with my out-of-state family and friends. If you want to bike though, I've biked similar distances with a Walmart LaJolla beach cruiser (one gear, foot brakes) and a Target Schwinn "hybrid" commuter bike (6 gears, hand brakes). I actually like the beach cruiser better b/c it had a basket for my lunch box & water bottle, I didn't have to futz with shifting gears, and the handles on it had a smoother grip (didn't leave my skin raw/itchy like the hybrid handles). Plus it's more comfy to sit up on the cruiser with the wide seat than to lean forward on the hybrid with the skinny up-your-butt seat. For such a short distance, no need to get fancy. If your bike breaks you can just walk it home.

cautiouslyunconventional

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2015, 12:32:27 PM »
If you'll be on the pavement in non-snowweather whole time, you might want something with smooth tires, or a hybrid. Mountain bike tires will probably slow you down.

Try looking on Craigslist. You can get a "good" bike for the price of a walmart bike, or get a really cheap one to find out if you like biking before sinking too much money into it.

otter

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2015, 01:55:28 PM »
For a commute that short practically anything will do.

Ideally it will have a means to carry whatever you typically carry to work (but if it doesn't a backpack will work fine) and some sort of fenders. Whatever you have, you should put a a front (white) and rear (red) light.

But getting your first bike right is not that important - again, the demands imposed by your commute are very low, low enough that anything above a so-called BSO (bike-shaped object, referring to crappy department-store bikes; please don't buy one of those), and if you find that you enjoy it and want to start riding more, you will inevitably iterate and replace it with something else.

The most important thing is to get something that fits you well, or at least well enough, and that you're comfortable on. This will help you enjoy riding, which may lead you to do more of it. If you don't enjoy it, it's hard to keep it up.

If you have a bike co-op in the city where you live, it is probably a good resource for an inexpensive used bike that will not need any further work. See, for example, Working Bikes in Chicago.

D.

kiwigirls

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #15 on: March 03, 2015, 02:02:53 PM »
I used to have a 4k commute in Chch.  It was about 6 years ago & I just bought the cheapest bike I could find (mountain bike) & fitted a basket to the front so I could use it for errands as well.  My husband tried to convince me to get a commuter bike but I wanted to have the option of going around some of the bike tracks with the kids.  Its pretty rusty & old now but it still works well.

Of course if you have debt you should just look for a cheap second hand bike one on TradeMe and save your cash.

Kiwi Mustache

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #16 on: March 03, 2015, 04:17:39 PM »
If you don't have serious hills on your way to work, I wouldn't bother getting a mountain bike with 21 or more gears, suspension fork etc (maintenance!!), but rather a simple low-maintenance bike with only one gear and fenders so you can use it on wet streets without getting wet and dirty.
As said, for only 3 km, any bike will do.

My commute is 4km one way, and though I do walk occasionally, I really like the speed of a bicycle.

Why are mountain bikes more maintenance?

PindyStache

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #17 on: March 03, 2015, 08:09:00 PM »
It probably wouldn't make much of a difference going 6km on fair-weather days, but MTB's arguably have more maintenance due to more moving parts (suspensions, more gears, etc.), thus potential things that could go wrong.

If there is a bike shop that sells used bikes just go there, ride a few, and get whatever feels best to you or catches your eye. Anything you get will be amazingly better than that long car commute. Embrace years of your life coming back into your control!

Cinder

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #18 on: March 09, 2015, 10:45:07 AM »
Why are mountain bikes more maintenance?

Same as a the above poster says, a real mountain bike usually has more moving parts.  Typically a hybrid/commuter will not have a suspension, etc..

At my local bike shop, they have a pretty popular bike for commuting, it's a single speed, and you can flip the rear tire around to either use a freewheel OR a fixed gear.  The fixed gear is usually used for winter since all the extra slush/crap that gets picked up by the chain doesn't have any moving parts to work into on the hub of the rear wheel.  You can just quick-disconnect the rear tire, flip it around, and use it with a freewheel if you want/need to.  Looks like a nice, convenient setup!

DagobertDuck

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #19 on: March 09, 2015, 02:07:44 PM »
I (as do most people over here) ride a dutch bike. Fenders to keep you dry and clean, single speed, and chain cover so it's almost completely maintenance free.
http://www.urkai.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Mens-Dutch-bike-Jersey.jpg

netskyblue

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #20 on: March 09, 2015, 02:50:38 PM »
I think I'm going to do my first bike commute tomorrow!  I'm a bit over 3 miles from work one-way, and I did a "test run" yesterday.  It took me 26 minutes one-way.  I found a used bike on craigslist, and while I did pay more for it than the people here advised ($400-something), I LOVE it.  I just don't think I'd enjoy (and thus use) a bike I thought was ugly.

I look slim & fit, but cardiovascularly speaking, I was a MESS when I first started, in Oct or Nov.  First ride, 0.70mi in, I thought I was going to collapse and die of a heart attack.  It was probably close to an hour before my heart calmed back down!

Before yesterday, the most I had ever done was about 3 miles on the stationary bike, which is what I've been practicing on all winter.  And then yesterday I made it 6 1/2 miles total!

It's going to be chilly tomorrow morning (~34*F), but should be super nice in the evening for my ride home (~60*F).

My advice is take it slow if you're not in good cardiovascular shape!  Oh and your butt/crotch area may need time to get used to it.  Mine hurt for at least a week after a couple 10-minute rides on the stationary bike!

johnny847

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Re: Bike Commuting 101
« Reply #21 on: March 09, 2015, 04:18:17 PM »
My advice is take it slow if you're not in good cardiovascular shape!  Oh and your butt/crotch area may need time to get used to it.  Mine hurt for at least a week after a couple 10-minute rides on the stationary bike!

There are cycling shorts that have more padding for your butt. Also, your butt tends to hurt more on a stationary bike, because you're constantly sitting, whereas cycling on the road you do get off the saddle to make stops, not feel the full force of a bump, etc.